Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way…
Note the man contemplated. He is a man of real piety, and he is contrasted with the wicked. The wicked are spoken of, but he is spoken to. He is understood to be of a different class altogether. But he is at present in circumstances of trial, and the battle is rather going against him. He sees that which he knows not how to reconcile with the idea that "there is a God who judgeth in the earth." A great cloud is upon his spirits.
I. THE ADVICE GIVEN TO HIM.
1. As to that which he is not to do. He is not to fret himself because of the prosperity of the wicked. It does not mean merely that he is not to be envious, not to indulge in that dark, malignant spirit. I think you must regard him as looking upon some of the great perplexing events of God's providence. There are a set of wicked men, whose diabolical skill and device are crowned with success. They are bound, perhaps, in a vigorous crusade against God, and against God's Church, and apparently are successful in their wicked endeavours. You are not to let such thoughts get down into your soul to weaken and destroy your faith in God. "Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in the way." Then there is a second piece of advice, which I should say goes farther because things are getting worse — "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil." It is not merely now a man looking upon that which is objective, and being rather disturbed by it; but things are coming near and touching him personally; the successful device has entangled him, and now passion is rising; he is getting excited; he has began to imagine an opposite device, and thinks to overcome strength by strength. Now, he must guard against that, for if affliction have this effect the devil will have the victory then, and not God, in regard to his soul. After these two pieces of advice, which may both be considered negative, though they are put in positive forms — we come to that which is positive. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." Do this by a filial trust, with an entire faith. Believe that the Lord lives, acts, governs. Simple advice, but easier to understand than to practise: for our tendency is, under such circumstances, to let go our hold on God. A man has an idea that he can do things better for himself, faith fails, and corruption gets the advantage.
II. WHY A MAN SHOULD REST IN THE LORD. The first thing suggested is, that in spite of all appearances a man must hold to the great fact that there is a great, Divine, presiding personality, an observer, governor, judge — he must keep to that, and hold to that great truth. You, a religious man, having a religious faith in you! but what is your religion and faith good for, if it will not hold you to the primary truths of religion? The second thing suggested is, that the good man should understand that the laws and constitution of things are upon his side, that in the long run they will turn up to be on the side of righteousness, goodness, and virtue, that the working out of things will ultimately be against the bad. Whatever may be the primary prospect of the success of wickedness — evil-doers shall be cut off. Why, some of you have seen that fifty times over. "Dear me, I wonder what has become of so and so! I remember twenty years ago he was the most-talked-of man in London; but there was something very dark and suspicious about him. I wonder what has become of him. I have lost sight of him for many years." Another says, "I can tell you. All gone to nothing. He sunk, and sunk; all his splendour disappeared, and he gradually came down to poverty and his children too, and the very house in which he lived is in ruins." It is thus that things work out. Sometimes you do not observe the process, but presently, unexpectedly, you see the result of the working out of the law, "Yet a little while and the wicked shall not be." And sometimes it is done otherwise, in a more palpable manner. "Into smoke shall they consume away."
III. GOD'S PROVIDENCE AND CARE SHALL WATCH OVER HIS OWN. The little that a righteous man hath," etc. A religious life is favourable to life. This is the natural law. Those that wait upon the Lord may have sorrow for a night, but light is sown in the darkness, and joy will spring up with the day. "Yet a little time and the wicked shall not be. Thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be;" yes, even though he should call his lands after his own name. I remember the circumstance of a man cutting his name into the stone upon his house, eight inches deep, because he was determined to go down to a remote posterity, upon the house which he had built for himself. I have seen the house, with the letters cut into the stone, almost a foot deep; and it is let now for a school, This may seem a simple matter. Aye, but simple matters illustrate great principles. It is in simple matters that God is most seen. CONCLUSION.
1. These principles apply to the milder afflictions which we at times are called on to suffer.
2. Whilst remembering the judgment that is coming upon the wicked if they do not repent, we are to pray for them that they may.
3. Lay to heart the truth that God, as surely as He lives, is oil the side of right. You are not in the devil's world, He neither made nor governs it. Therefore keep to the right and the true. to religious faith and the side of God.
Parallel VersesKJV: Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.